Last summer the first weekend in August gave us two dumpster fires, “Suicide Squad” and “Nine Lives.” I guess history does repeat itself.
“The Dark Tower” is the highly-anticipated adaption of the Stephen King book series. The film stars Idris Elba as a gun-slinging man on a quest to protect the titular tower from “The Man in Black” (Matthew McConaughey), who wishes to see it destroyed. Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel directs his first American production.
I had honestly never even heard of this book series until the trailer for this dropped and the internet went nuts. Apparently it has quite the following and is what many people know King by, not his horror novels; honestly could’ve fooled me. The aforementioned trailer was sloppy and looked a bit like it was trying to be many things, and there were reports that this thing was a living hell of a production, with numerous people having “kill rights” on scenes and edits (“too many cooks in the kitchen” is the term being used around this film). And yet, somehow, after all the dust settled, “The Dark Tower” is actually not as bad and sloppy as the trailers made it out to look.
I like Idris Elba, have ever since he fired Michael Scott on “The Office,” and God bless him he’s trying here. He isn’t really given much to do and we don’t really learn much about his character, but you can tell his natural charisma is trying hard to bleed through. He can also hold his own in a shootout sequence which only makes me want to see him as Daniel Craig’s heir as 007 even more.
Matthew McConaughey is the film’s villain and while it is cool to see him go bad in a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, he is pretty much playing an evil version of his Lincoln car commercial alter ego. He whispers things to people with his sorcerer’s powers and they do it (on more than one occasion he says “stop breathing” to someone and they die), and it is more often funny than it is creepy or intimidating.
Teen actor Tom Taylor holds his own in scenes with these two powerhouse guys, and for a kid actor (even though he’s 15) he actually has a few moments of genuine emotion that are conveyed well, and he has good chemistry with Elba. His friend played by Michael Barbieri, however, is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen and every line of dialogue made me cringe. I’m sorry, but I had to get that out of my system.
The film’s final shootout is pretty fun, with Elba getting headshot after headshot while reloading his revolver rapidly. It was scenes like this that made me wish that the whole film was an action set piece. Because aside from that final sequence, this film is borrrrringggggg.
This film makes absolutely no sense, and I’m pretty sure that no attempt to explain the rules or law of the land was made. Co-written and produced by Akiva Goldsman (who brought us the likes of “Batman and Robin” and this year’s “Transformers: The Last Knight”), the film opens with a brief explanation of what the Tower is and then cuts to kids being rounded up and used as an energy source. Why can only the minds of children destroy the Tower? Why does it not work the first time but McConaughey keeps on trying? I saw the film and I couldn’t tell you.
They spent a few million dollars on reshoots and you can clearly tell which scenes in here were shot months later than the others. They held test screenings for this last October and they had historically awful results, so the producers filmed scenes to explain why Elba hates McConaughey but they just come off as lazy and useless.
We only actually see the Tower on three occasions in the film, and all are just wide shots of it getting hit by magic beams. We never really learn why it is important to protect, other than “McConaughey is evil and he wants it destroyed to unleash monsters!” and that is just one of dozens of questions I had throughout this thing (why is Elba immune to McConaughey’s wizard tricks? They literally just have McConaughey give a throwaway line “my magic has never worked on you!” and move on).
“The Dark Tower” isn’t aggressively awful like “Fantastic Four” but it is just boring, which is the worst thing a film can be. Even “The Emoji Movie” was less of a pain to sit through because at least you can laugh at how downright terrible that film is; this is just a massive misfire on almost every level. If you are a fan of the books, I cannot attest to how loyal this film is (I hear it’s not) and if you have never read them I don’t know how interested you’ll be after seeing this to pick them up (I can tell you I’m not). It is a film that belongs in August, right in the flaming dumpster with all the other throwaway, unwanted and forgotten excuses for films.
Critics Rating: 3/10